By Brian Proffitt
Today’s new word, boys and girls. is internecine.
In-ter-ne-cine. Can you say that? I knew you could…
That’s right, step right up, ladies and germs and witness the
newest! The latest! The absolutely fan-tab-ulous term to describe
the Linux community!
Internecine! As in the internecine warfare the community is
undergoing right now because–horror of horrors–people in the
community don’t always agree how Linux should be built or used!
It’s only shown up in two articles thus far, so in actuality
it’s a little early to call it a trend yet, but I sense that this
is going to be the latest buzzword to lob at the Linux community as
the proprietary crowd regroups from their Very Bad Month.
The label of in-fighting has shown up in more articles than two,
mind you, though ‘internecine’ wasn’t actually used. Groklaw found
the theme in this article from Rob Enderle,
InformationWeek’s Alexander Wolfe
uses the actual phrase, as does John Obeto from
NetworkWorld, and Randall Kennedy also implies in-fighting is a
big concern in his “Desktop
Linux? Stick a Fork in It!” InfoWorld article. Four missives in
a week’s time… sounds like a meme to me!
A lot of this seems to be centered around Dr. Con Kolivas July
resignation from the Linux kernel development team. (Groklaw
raises an interesting question as to why this is being brought
up again two months after the fact.)
Now, here’s the God’s honest truth: I have no idea if the
decision to not include Kolivas’ scheduler in the kernel was the
right one or not. To make that assessment, I would have to be a
developer, which I am not. That Kolivas left (loudly) the
development team after this rejection is perfectly understandable,
too. Regrettable, but understandable.
Here’s the thing (which is me-speak for getting out the biggest
cluestick I can find): this stuff happens all of the time.
No, really. All of the time.
People in this community fight about windows. Menus. Text
editors. Icons. And that’s just before breakfast.
And guess what?
This is normal.
People in communities fight. In my own community, there are
disagreements about how to handle taxes. Trash collection.
University parties. I imagine these kinds of things are going on
where you live, too. Yet no one is calling our respective
communities weak. In fact, many people would argue that the system
that allows us to have all of these discussions and
arguments–democracy–is a pretty strong one.
Granted, there are parts of Linux that function like a
meritocracy, particularly the aforementioned kernel. With all due
respect to Kolivas, if his scheduler was indeed the best one, why
didn’t anyone raise a huge fuss when he picked up and left? Linus
Torvalds is the “benevolent dictator” but he has been known to
change his mind if enough people rally around a certain piece of
Here’s what gets me: people are acting like all of this
squabbling is new. It’s not. It’s been going on since–well, since
one primate looked at another primate’s rock and said “I want
So, despite all of the horrible, terrible, nasty fighting, the
Linux kernel and all of the attendant software has helped create a
multi-billion dollar industry.
Yeah, I guess we must be in real trouble now.
Would we be more productive if we all just got along better?
Sure we would. The pacifist in me craves calm, rational
discussions. But should we abandon all hope because some developers
get testy with each other? I think not.
One word of caution I feel I must insert: I think there are
limits to how far such fighting should go, especially when dealing
with those outside the community who disagree with you. While we
should all feel free to voice our opinions, I was especially
alarmed when I read
Kennedy’s account of getting slammed with racial and sexual
epithets. I contacted him to confirm these messages, and I believe
he was not exaggerating. That kind of nonsense must stop. If you
can’t get your point across without hate words, then I think I can
safely say you don’t represent what this community is about.
It will be interesting to see just how far this new word
internecine will go.
Maybe we can make it a drinking game. Start pouring.